Jai Shri Ram. A religious chant in praise of a Hindu god and a variant of a largely north Indian way of greeting “Ram-Ram” or “Jai Siya Ram” lost much of its benign history this week during the oath-taking of newly elected Lok Sabha MPs.
It was used as a political slogan in Parliament at the arrival of Muslim MPs, mainly to heckle them. In April this year, the greeting was heard at a site where a tribal, accused of cow slaughter, was lynched. It is now a forceful assertion of Hindu supremacy in an India, which wants to say at every turn that it is now ruled by the BJP’s self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi.
This is extremely worrying when an MP is booed with provocative slogans inside the parliament, the temple of democracy. This is shameful to say the least. These BJP MPs are also doing a great disservice to their religion. https://t.co/5H7n9i0aOr
— Rifat Jawaid (@RifatJawaid) June 18, 2019
Monday and Tuesday’s oath-taking ceremony in Lok Sabha became a sloganeering contest with members chanting the name of gods or inspirational figures as per their preference.
The BJP MPs chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ as AIMIM’s MP from Hyderabad, Asaduddin Owaisi, walked up to take oath. Owaisi, undeterred by the sloganeering, concluded his oath speech, which he delivered in Urdu, by chanting Jai Bheem, Jai Meem, Takbeer Allahu Akbar, Jai Hind.
Outside Parliament, Owaisi spoke to the reporters about the heckling, and said: “I think, it is good that they remember such things after seeing me. I hope they remember our Constitution and the deaths of children in Muzaffarpur as well. I will keep an eye on them.”
The treasury bench netas who are busy heckling opposition MPs with slogans of Jai Shri Ram inside parliament should be ashamed.. Ram is Maryada Purshottam: he belongs to all.. don’t reduce him to a partisan political figure. भगवान राम किसी पक्ष के मेम्बर नहीं!
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) June 18, 2019
On the first day of the 17th Lok Sabha, 320 MPs took oath, while 200 MPs took oath on the second day.
BJP’s Unnao MP Sakhi Maharaj took the oath in Sanskrit and concluded his speech with ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Jai Jai Shri Ram’. Members cheered and thumped the desks as Sakshi Maharaj signed the register. One of the MPs shouted ‘mandir wahin banayenge’, which was followed by laughter from the benches.
Jai Shri Ram and Takbeer?
So, Indian Parliament has turned into a religious place? Ab Mandir aur Masjid wahi baane gi kya? Fool the public for next 5 years!
— Salman Nizami (@SalmanNizami_) June 18, 2019
As the day progressed, it became a test of who could chant more slogans and do it louder than the rest. Locket Chatterjee of the BJP chanted Jai Shri Ram, Jai Maa Durga, Jai Maa Kali, Bharat Mata Ki Jai – with her pitch, and her hands, rising in force with each slogan.
Pro-tem speaker Virendra Kumar repeatedly asked MPs to desist from sloganeering. He called out a DMK MP’s act of hailing Periyar, Kaliangar and Ambedkar, and ordered only the part of the speech that is in line with the prescribed format be recorded.
Wednesday, newly elected Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla said he won’t allow the chanting of religious slogans inside the House again, adding that there are prescribed spaces for members to hold placard and protest in the manner they want.
If the start of the new Lok Sabha is any indication, Jai Shri Ram will continue to make headlines over the next five years of the Narendra Modi-led BJP regime, which is back in the Lok Sabha with a much bigger mandate than the last time.